As with other online retailers, the standard way of paying for items on Amazon is via credit or debit card number, that most of us have saved. But Amazon thinks it can do better. The global e-commerce leader recently announced the launch of its new Amazon Cash service, which will allow you to add cash to your Amazon account balance.
How it works
- Visit Amazon.com/cash, search “Amazon cash” in the Amazon mobile app or navigate to “Manage Gift Card” to access your Amazon Cash barcode.
- Use your mobile device to show the barcode to a cashier at participating retailers, such as CVS and Speedway, or print the barcode out at home to give to them.
- Tell the cashier the amount you’d like added to your Amazon account—the service allows between $15 and $500, and there are no fees.
- Your funds become available instantly to use anywhere on Amazon. You’ll get an email or push notification confirming the change in your account balance.
You use the same barcode every time you want to add more cash, and if you want, you can add it to your Wallet app (iOS) or make a homescreen shortcut (Android).
Why it’s a big deal
According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), about 7% (9 million) of American households are unbanked, while an additional 19.9% (24.5) million are underbanked. These are individuals who, for logistical or personal preferences, don’t use debit or credit cards or have a bank account. By introducing an add cash option, the world’s largest online retailer makes its entire inventory accessible to the more than a quarter of consumers who might not otherwise be able to shop on Amazon.
Another consideration is that identity theft and credit and debit card fraud. Roughly 59% of American consumers reported that they were extremely or very concerned about having card data stolen in 2015. Amazon Cash assuages this concern and may convince more consumers to join Amazon.
Erin Jordan, Account Director and retailer technology practice area lead at Walker Sands Communications, notes that security is a big concern for shoppers. Their 2016 Future of Retail study revealed the No. 1 concern among consumers for mobile payment apps is security. Jordan says this concern is “a barrier that Amazon might be able to overcome since the marketplace is already trusted by the majority of consumers.”
But people do want to pay via mobile. According to the State of the Mobile Experience study by PointSource, a digital transformation firm, 27% of retailer decision-makers with an existing mobile presence say not being able to pay with mobile is a pain point for customers. PointSource believes points out that Amazon Cash will get rid of friction and barriers associated with online shopping.
Other experts agree that this is a good move for Amazon. FuturePay, an alternative payment option for online shoppers that also enables consumers to make a purchase without a credit card, predicts this move by Amazon Cash will decrease cart abandonment while upping loyalty and revenue due to increased payment flexibility.
But there’s a catch
Joe Kleinwaechter, VP of Innovation and Design at Worldpay, notes that many consumers who fall into the unbanked or underbanked categories might not want to tie up their money in a holding account and that consumers also would need to calculate taxes and shipping fees before making a deposit intended to cover specific purchases.
That said, the latter of these concerns might be overestimated. A Nielsen report indicates that 72% of shoppers research items on their smartphones prior to purchase. Consumers likely would take the fees into consideration as they read reviews and compare prices across retail sites. Many sites automatically provide tax and shipping estimates alongside product price tags, as well.
But there are other worries. “[Amazon Cash] still offers a challenging user experience not far from the experience they use to buy an Amazon gift card to make the purchase,” Kleinwaechter explains. “The risk for conflicts between Amazon and brick and mortar merchants also raises some important questions about the longevity of this type of service.”
Ultimately, the future of Amazon Cash now is in the hands of shoppers. As more people try the service, it will be clear which direction Amazon needs to go.